Sean Sasser and Judd Winick

Sean Sasser, left, in 1996 with "Real World" costar Judd Winick, broke ground with a gay commitment ceremony on the MTV show. (Rick Meyer / Los Angeles Times / August 8, 2013)

Sean Sasser, who became an unlikely pioneer of gay marriage during the 1994 telecast of MTV's "Real World: San Francisco," has died.

Sasser, who was 44, suffered from a rare form of lung cancer, according to UPI.

"We will miss u so much," Judd Winick, one of Sasser's "Real World" costars, tweeted earlier this week.

PHOTOS: Notable deaths of 2013

Sasser gained prominence when he joined boyfriend Pedro Zamora in a commitment ceremony telecast on Nov. 3, 1994. Held at the "Real World" house, the event included the pair exchanging vows and wedding rings.

Zamora, who suffered from AIDS, died eight days after the episode was broadcast.

The "Real World" episode introduced many young people to the idea of gay marriage and was telecast years before the issue attracted mainstream political attention. In 1996, a national poll found 68% of respondents opposed to gay marriage. By 2012, the figure had dropped to 48%.

Sasser, who was HIV-positive, reportedly died of mesothelioma, a lung disease. Since his "Real World" days, he had worked as a pastry chef and remarried.


Charlie Rose talks 'Breaking Bad': 'Oh yeah, I binged'

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta goes pro-pot for 'Weed' documentary

Amber Tamblyn to portray lesbian daughter on 'Two and a Half Men'

Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT